Tuesday evening, Governor Kim Reynolds delivered her annual condition of the state address, her fourth as governor. The speech is her opportunity to summarize the previous year’s events, highlight achievements, and layout Reynolds’ policy priorities for the new legislative session.
2020 was no ordinary year in Iowa or the nation. However, in the midst of the chaos and tragedy that 2020 will be known for, Governor Reynolds highlighted the courage, character, and strength of Iowans who were forced to endure a pandemic, a drought, civil unrest, a derecho, and it was an election year to boot.
Shortly after the start of the speech, she thanked the thousands of essential workers in healthcare, sanitation, government, manufacturing, food supply, and law enforcement, who helped us survive these past eleven months.
While many of us were shielded from the worst of the pandemic, you were on the front lines everyday. We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude, but we will try. Please join me in thanking these heroic Iowans.
The governor also took the occasion to remember and honor those who we lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are people across this state who are still hurting. Many lost their job or their business or even their home.
And many lost loved ones to this horrible pandemic. For them, and for anyone who lost someone this year, whatever the cause, saying goodbye was even harder than it usually is. You may not have been able to be with them while they were sick, to hold their hand one last time, or to fully celebrate their life at a funeral with all of those they loved.
Whether you’re in the chamber or watching at home, please take a moment, bow your head, and remember all of those we lost this year and the loved ones they leave behind.
The governor shared that thanks to conservative budgeting practices and the decisions made last year, Iowa faired much better than many states as we recover from the events of 2020.
As I stand here tonight, our unemployment rate has returned to 3.6%, one of the lowest in the country, and our GDP grew over 36% in the third quarter of 2020, outpacing the nation. Iowa’s coming back, and we’re coming back strong. – @IAGovernor #iapolitics
— Iowa Field Report.com (@IAFieldReport) January 13, 2021
The proposals in the speech and the tone made it clear that while she would continue to work tirelessly for Iowans recovering from the events of 2020, she had no interest in merely reacting to the events of last year. On the contrary, From education to healthcare to law enforcement and broadband, Reynolds laid out an aggressive and but focused agenda of job growth and improving Iowans’ lives.
When it came to the issue of education, Governor Reynolds’s speech showed that she’s heard parents loud and clear. There is a real need to give them a choice and the ability to send their kids back to school full time if that’s what they want. She shared several powerful stories about parents juggling remote learning, jobs, and family duties. Tuesday, she requested the legislature require each of Iowa’s school districts to offer full-time in-person learning as an option and allow open enrolment. Open enrollment allows parents the choice to send their kids to a school of their choice.
Tonight I am asking the legislature to immediately send a bill to my desk that gives parents the choice to send their child back to school full time. We can’t wait any longer. Our kids can’t wait any longer. – @IAGovernor #iapolitics
— Iowa Field Report.com (@IAFieldReport) January 13, 2021
It has the potential to raise the quality for all schools. And for those schools that do fall behind, it ensures our children don’t fall with them. Let’s work together to make sure every child receives a quality education, regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.
— Gov. Kim Reynolds (@IAGovernor) January 13, 2021
Reynolds sees much work ahead to address issues like social justice, public safety, and law enforcement. She announced that last year’s accomplishments on social justice, such as the bipartisan More Perfect Union Act to improve police work in Iowa and the enfranchisement of felon voting rights, were just the beginning. To the legislators, members of the Judiciary and specials guests gathered, but socially distanced, in the Iowa House chamber, she said:
We should never be afraid to talk about ways to improve policing, but there will be no talk of defunding the police here. Our men and women in blue will always have my respect, and I will always have their back.
To that end, I’ll be introducing a bill that protects law enforcement and continues our march toward racial justice.
The bill will make clear that if you riot or attack our men and women in uniform, you will be punished. We won’t stand for it.
The bill will also ban racial profiling and other forms of disparate treatment. Because no actions should ever be taken based upon the color of someone’s skin. As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
While dedication, social justice, and law enforcement were front and center Tuesday evening, Reynolds proposed investing $450 million in broadband access. The spending would take place over three years and leverage a spatial portion of private funds to deliver Iowa the biggest buildout of high-speed internet in the country.
Finally, when it came to the COVID-19n vaccine effort, Reynolds had lots of good news.
To date, nearly 100,000 Iowans, including our healthcare workers, have received their first dose, and several thousand have now received their second. And by January 25, all 90,000 nursing-home residents and staff will have received the vaccine, ensuring that Iowans most at risk are among the first to have this protection.
After her remarks, she asked Iowas to do two things.
First, let’s not forget those neighbors who are still hurting. Reach out. Keep volunteering; continue to stock food banks. Continue to show the country that it doesn’t take a pandemic or a derecho to lend a helping hand.
Second, let’s not return to normal. Let’s be better. Let’s think bigger. Be bolder.
If anything, this year has shown us what we can accomplish, and how fast we can do it. Hold onto that spirit. To that ingenuity and collaboration. To the feeling that we’re working for the greater good, and not ourselves.
If we can do that—if we can work with and for each other—then we will do great things.
I believe in this State, because I believe in you. I’ve seen what you’ve done; I’ve watched, sometimes with tears of pride in my eyes. And that’s how I know that the condition of our State is strong. Because you are strong—stronger than you ever imagined.
The reaction to the speech was positive. Republican leaders in the legislature welcomed her ideas and thanked her for her tireless efforts to support Iowans.
“2020 was a difficult year, one more challenging than anyone expected, yet Governor Reynolds led Iowa very well through that time. I appreciate her tireless efforts over the last several months,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.
“The governor and Senate Republicans share many of the same priorities and I look forward to working with my fellow senators to implement that shared agenda. We are eager to work with her and the House of Representatives to ease the tax burden, implement a balanced budget, and improve education by ensuring parents and students have a choice to attend school 100% in-person,” said Whitver.
Speaker Pat Grassley held a press avail after the speech to share his thoughts with reporters.
“After listening to the Governor’s speech, a lot of the things that the Governor brought up are priorities that House Republicans have been talking about as well. I think that’s a positive sign for this upcoming legislative session. Obviously, child care is a huge issue that I’ve talked about leading up to session. Sounds like the Governor has some aggressive plans that she’d like to bring forward. […] Another piece I think is extremely important that again we’ve been talking about for the last several years is broadband. We created a new IT committee with the emphasis of bringing forward good proposals […] related to broadband.
The Governor laid out a lot of what I would call aggressive, forward-thinking proposals and I think we are able to do that, even coming off 2020 is because of the sound fiscal decisions that we’ve made. And I think we need to continue to remind ourselves that the decisions we’ve made as a Legislature have allowed us to have some of these proposals come from the Governor today.
Another thing that is a priority from the standpoint of our caucus is parental choice in education. Parental choice can mean a lot of things. There are several things that the Governor touched on that I know we want to be a part of those conversations going into and throughout this Legislative session.”
The Republican Party of Iowa issued the following statement after Reynolds remarks.
“Tonight Governor Reynolds showed Iowans that she’s a leader with compassion, bold ideas, and the grit and determination to get things done. Her bold agenda of getting our children back in school, investing record amounts into broadband internet infrastructure, and fighting for our men and women in law enforcement prove she’s the leader Iowa needs to come back stronger than we were before this pandemic.”
Both of Iowa’s US Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, praised the speech and the Governor’s leadership.
Tonight, our Gov. @KimReynoldsIA put forward her inspiring & bold vision for Iowans for 2021, including:
✅ ensuring our kids get the education they deserve
✅ supporting Iowa workers & small businesses
✅expanding broadband access
Thank you Kim for your hard work & leadership!
— Joni Ernst (@joniernst) January 13, 2021
Gov Kim Reynolds gave gr8 condition of the state address Outlining her priorities for Iowa incl COVID vaccine distribution / universal broadband infrastructure / putting students first etc Thru a pandemic +derecho +other challenges last yr proved once again Iowans are STRONG
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) January 13, 2021